One Of The Best Sermons Ever

This may be one of the best ever Sunday sermons. The Voice didn’t go to seminary, maybe a good thing. Never served a church or synagogue. But, in terms of friendship, wisdom and courage he is the best.

I’ve known Sam Smith [a plain name with incredible wisdom and courage] since 1991 when I served a church in a Chicago suburb. Sam is a sportswriter, at the time he covered the National Basketball Association, primarily the Chicago Bulls. I loved what he wrote…he had incredible courage, wrote a book that shredded the illusion that Michael Jordan was pushing perfection. The locker room shattered that.

Had Sam talk at our church on the ethics of professional athletes. He was terrific. Our friendship was born, a wonderful blessing from God.

Today Sam wrote in response to some recent blogs, blogs that refuse the tip-toe dance around the swamp building in Washington, D.C. I wish, oh I wish he were not correct! I wish what Sam writes is fancy. I believe there’s nothing fanciful about it. I so admire him. Now retired he continues to write, his latest book on the on NBA history and the struggle for economic and racial and labor justice.

He’s given permission to share his thoughts from today. My admission [make that a confession], dosed heavily with the syrup of embarrassment, is the church brings little if any value to our human journey. Sure, it’s easy for me to write this. But. It’s not that I am unaware of current church leadership and the ways in which their walk is almost always stranger to their talk.

Go, Sam!!

“Thanks for your work and your conscience
What I appreciate most is a sane voice from the church community
I’ve been at a loss at how not only the evangelical world but America’s church people can remain so silent in the direct assault on morality, ethics and everything in the teachings of Jesus Christ

I’m not an acolyte, but these basics of not only our constitutional government but our ethical way of life are under assault and the agency that believes it can speak privately for the best of the human condition remains silent
Pastors should be condemning this attack on our beliefs regularly
Where’s the moral soul?

I prefer the secular, but you can endorse the same traits

The presidency is not supposed to lead events but present a moral and ethical and not hypocritical model of leadership for our country
That’s why we picked Washington
He was no genius But he could be trusted as the model we wanted to be

That’s where America’s standing in the world comes from
He regularly visited synagogues when he saw them under siege
Jefferson read the Koran His personal one

The hypocrisy of the evangelical movement of what I can get to benefit me is an embarrassment and a tragedy
They’re the NCAA of religion

But where are guidepost, the church leaders to condemn this ugliness and hatred and moral decay

It’s my Sunday sermon “

AMEN, Sam, may the Shalom of Jahweh ever be with you!

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Parade Anyone?

I do not remember my age. Had to be when I was 10 or 11, which made it 1950 or 1951.

I remember the event, even more I remember standing by the best seat in the house. My mother, father and sister stood [actually, in order to see] on the balcony porch of the Broadway Theatre on Broadway in Portland, Oregon. We had, literally, a bird’s eye view of the Rose Parade, evidence that Portland was the city of Roses. It happened because my cousin, Jack Matlack was the manager of many downtown theatres, including the Broadway.

The floats, the ponies, the bands, the Queen and her court, all in Portland High Schools. It was a good parade, a parade of celebration. People clapped and cheered. And no less, which for Portland would be exception in early June, no clouds, light breeze and 70 degrees. At least it seemed weather didn’t negate the joy.

I’ve never been to the colossal parades, but have watched them on television. Spectacular would not be overstatement. And to think of all the preparation, how LONG it must take to perfect a float with more flowers than can be counted. Good and positive.


You know this is coming. I only wish I could sit down with my military friends and ask them. I cannot do that now, but some of them will get this. I thought it was Saturday Night Life when President Trump said we should have a parade to show America’s military might. Evidently he loved the Paris parade of same theme. And he probably, because his ego lacks measurement, thought our country can do it better.

I am heartened some key Washington D.C. leaders refuse to support such a parade. Saw today the cost for this parade would push $50 million, or something like that.

I more than hope the possibility of a military parade gets crushed by the bricks and stones crumbling on them…bricks and stones that will not be used to build a wall on the border with Mexico.

When? When will we realize if the military parade would actually happen…what a lamentable day…there would be more jeering than cheering?

Which is worse than unfortunate. Our military need our support! I support them! One of my best friends is a retired General. The military, mostly retired Generals and Colonels in Broadmoor Church in Colorado Springs during my pastorate with them, were incredible human beings, who happened to be military retirees. In fact, one of our members was the last man, literally, off our American Embassy Roof in Saigon. My daughter-in-law [and my son, Andrew and grandchildren Dylan and Taylor], Jennifer Hagen Miller, will be sent to Germany to spend a year helping our military there. Oh, my. THAT’S what needs to be celebrated. Not a parade to massage our President’s ego. What I hope? I hope it never happens. And I hope those who follow the elephants will have that day off.

And, even more, take the $50 million and build a few bridges, offer better roads. At least that should cover a few miles.

You think?

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More Than A Prayer…Much More

Rabbi Joe Black is the Senior Rabbi at Temple Emanuel in Denver, Colorado. On the very day students and teachers were slaughtered in Parkland, Florida, Rabbi Black offered this prayer to the Colorado House of Representatives. I find it more powerful than words can convey.

I share, in hopes the deep truths of this prayer reach those whose ears are deafened by the shouts of those who buy Assault rifles…and more importantly to those legislators whose pockets have been lined by the NRA. In my case it would be especially Ted Cruz and if he will share, with Marco Rubio, two of the most vitriolic voices to say this is not the time to discuss gun regulations. I hold that to be WRONG. VERY WRONG.

The prayer that speaks truth and invites action:

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Life Today–Full and Empty

I’ve often held, when the tragic occurs, God’s heart is the first to break. I also hold with Hemingway who maintained “the world breaks everyone, but then, some get strong in the broken places.”

Coursing through today brought more grief than relief. But. First, the relief, for this is Relief Friday for my family. My stepson, Jason, is improving! Yeah! He’s been transferred from the Intermediate Care at Seton Hospital to Cornerstone Hospital, only a few Austin blocks away. A good next-rehab-step. Yeah!

He is improving. Still there is wounding on his backside, giving “pain in the butt” a reality and not a metaphor. That has happened because of the time on his back following his January 7 surgery.

He can rub his nose and scratch his chin…with both hands! Yeah! The respiratory therapist has said she’s about ready to shift his #8 trach to a #6, and then put in a valve so we won’t have to only read Jason’s lips to communicate. Yeah!

Yes, there are miles to walk. But, Diane has been better than fabulous as a mother—actually an angel impersonating a human being [just like some of you who have graced my life]. We feel so much better.

Two pastors from our church have visited…ah, pastoral presence makes a difference. Yeah!

In all that I’m not cocooned to the world. The 17 dead in Florida…worse than horrific. What I appreciate more than anything are two comments. One a mother, whose 14-year old daughter was killed, screaming about her pain and asking for something to be done! Then one of the surviving students asking how President Trump would feel if Barron were among the 17? That was more than probing, in my grasp; it was connecting and so very important.

Obviously you know I have no regard for our current national leadership. Vice-President Pence acts on what he believes Jesus say to him. Give me a break…not that Jesus doesn’t speak. But, honestly, Vice-President Pence, I don’t believe Jesus smiles or even nods any approval to require anyone who discovers their sexual orientation is homosexual, he or she NEEDS to go to conversion therapy. Are you kidding me?

And, as for our President, learning today the indictment of 13 Russians, the denial doesn’t work anymore. Changing the time-line about Porter doesn’t work anymore. And what I appreciate this is all no longer avoidable, no matter what the voice of the president is, Ms. Sanders, says. I wonder, in 15 years, what she’ll tell her children about the values they should hold? Does integrity and not blaming others all the time hold?

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Another Way To Manage Regrets: Resolve

The focus yesterday was killing regrets. Brought many responses…one indicated the need to bury regrets happens all the time…and in some of those times, hardest to do. Because of another R word: revenge. But the friend said it’s better not to do anything more than learn and make sure the regret wasn’t prompted by her own actions or words. Good point.

Another shocked me. She said the hardest pain, inflicted by another, was to drop the regret. The story could be devastating. The friend said at the age of 9 she was asked to be the FIRST African American girl to be on the cover of the cereal Captain Crunch. She saw that, having moved from South Chicago to Los Angeles, as “the moment” to launch an acting career, for her 9-year-old time on stage was always applauded. But, she said her sister somehow broke the deal so the cereal box cover picture never happened.

That’s a huge OUCH. Sure, could have been nothing. But to have it thwarted by a sister? Come on. Yet, this friend, no longer 9 years old, has zoomed up in her company and brings such goodness and hope to others. I’m beyond impressed. A great example of wisdom tamping down the ego and increasing the still other R word: resolve. That’s how I see it.

I now think of how the apparent “by the way” can be the most pivotal moment. I’ve shared this before. It’s about Jeannette Butts, now Jeannette Hereniko, living with Vili in Hawaii. When Jeannette and I were 16 attending Jefferson High School in Portland, Oregon, we were best friends who never dated. Thinking back on that, probably why we are best friends now. One night, at the incredibly naïve age of 16, I said to Jeannette, and it wasn’t academic, because at 16 I thought an answer was timely, “Jeannette, I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.”

She howled, slapped her hands, “Mark, you’re so stupid. Of course, you’re going to be a minister.”

I went home, told my parents I had made my decision. My mother thought it was wonderful. My father cleared his throat, “That’s good to know, Mark. Get a good night’s sleep and we’ll talk about it in the morning.”

Well, Jeannette’s vision came through. And, hopefully there’ve been more good than bad these years.

And, to thank her, I’m going to applaud and cheer on March 31 in Portland—62 years after her declaration isn’t too late! For Jeannette will be performing a one woman show in Portland on March 31 that has brought sold-out audiences in Hawaii. And I’m going to be joined by other classmates from our high school 1958 graduating class. So, it never became a regret.

Which may be the most apt comment about regrets.

Why list them?

Why not think of the moment, no matter how incidental at the time, that led to absolute goodness and a more viable way to order life? Shift the world of regrets to affirmations. Possible?

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Killing Regrets

How do you bury the dead? I mean REALLY BURY THE DEAD.

A dear friend, truth friend by the best definition—caring, trustworthy, candid—asked me, “What is your strongest regret for your ministry?”

Of course, flooding not trickling was the muse. What I did I’d like to retroactively change. What I “patiented” or snuck through an obvious mistake. When, to use a fishing metaphor, when I cast into the trees and lost the guide’s favorite spinner.

In a phrase, lots of regrets.

In the muse, though, there were two. Maybe all the exposing of the sordid lately triggered them.

I shared with my truth friend, the first time a word came to anyone. Had to do with two men, both ordained clergy, who treated me like I was pulp. I almost said shit, but want this to remain G rated. Not for details because that’s part of the resolve. Only to say they are dead now and that’s not a metaphor. Dead. Dead.

They are regrets that I didn’t rise from my emotional cocoon and speak the truth. An extrovert, as I see myself, seldom mutes. Make that rarely. But in the conversation I became ping-ponged between agitation and fury that I had not exposed them.

My friend listened. And listened. And waited. Then, quietly yet with the force of a helpful tsunami [yeah, not a good metaphor but in this instance it had that curing impact on me] said, “You need to bury the regret with them. Bury it quickly and completely, so no one, not even you, can find the regrets. Get it out of your space. Because to speak aloud, or even to think aloud, about your mistreatment is only the voice of your ego. Drop it. Bury it. You’ll be better.

“For one good reason. Look around you…say, let’s look at national leadership in D.C. or in your own present world in Texas. Those who continue to blame others, those who deny any culpability, those who don’t keep their word, those who tear others apart do so primarily because of a raging self-contempt they cannot deal with. You’d be the same, controlled by the self-judgment that you failed. So what? Life goes on. So do you. Take care of Diane and Jason, your full family, and script Tricia’s next adventure…and be sure to release the steelhead in your next trip. Drop the regret. Let that run away, never to return, unfindable.”

Ah, I have. I have. I have.


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Living Each Day Where Truth Reigns

How do you choose? 24 hours each day. Life values. Life hopes. Life avoidances. Not that each day is another day, but I believe fervently each day is a new gift of God.

You may not look this way, but for me, when life functions through choice theologically, it’s so much easier. Not “What Would Jesus Do?” which I find pedantic, but because I’m a Christian it is “What Would Jesus Have Me Do?”

This morning a lovely note from a dearest friend [and I MAKE the case she is more than one dearest friend], Joanne Carlson Brown, she has this as a way to live:

“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.”
Dr. Angela Davis

To me this is powerful and has to do with triaging. I think, every day, maybe even through dreaming, what is important. You can guess my list…caring for Diane, caring for Jason, caring for my sons and their family, caring for Jason’s 3 sons, writing when I can [by the way a new novel’s creeping in my marinating world, will probably be called, “Living Without Arms,” and will find Tricia in a predicament you’d never ever wish on anyone.], fishing of course.

Today is a case in point…this blog so I can focus my thoughts. Please don’t regard this as selfish, consider it self-organizing. Walking our dogs. Getting to the hospital, rescheduling a lunch visit with a pastor…and then leave a couple of hours open for “whatever.”

Back to the Davis quote. I’m not afraid to live with that…it prompts, it’s prophetic, it’s real. Whether or not I can empower change, I’m still finding part of my breathing and pulsing life is my significant dis-ownership from dominating values false-facted today. I believe in the truth. I believe in the truth. And when anyone’s nose grows with every word, I more than eschew it. I proclaim around me. It’s not to win or lose friends. It’s simply to shudder how the values I hold are not even given a glance. To me? That’s WRONG.

So, Angela Davis, thank you. Joanne, thank you. And God? Most of all thank you for the gift of a new day and whatever ability I can muster to distribute my time for the good you ask. For me it’s more than interpretation and manifestation. For me, it’s embodiment through word and deed. And it is my hope when I speak and act it will NEVER be unrelated. And my nose never grows. Shalom.

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